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Consumer Education of Low-Carbon Consumption in Chinese Context

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Consumer Education of Low-Carbon Consumption in Chinese Context
M & D FORUM
Consumer Education of Low-Carbon Consumption in Chinese Context
ZHANG Ying, CHEN Lei
School of Business and Management, Anhui Finance and Economics University, P.R.China, 233030
[email protected]
Abstract: This study focuses on analyzing the issues of consumers’ low-carbon consumption awareness
and consumption behavior and countermeasures of consumer education. Through consumer survey, the
research finds that consumers have a weak low-carbon consumption concept, and consumers lack a deep
understanding of low-carbon, and preference of low-carbon product need to be cultivated, and the
communication efforts and effects of low-carbon consumption need to be improved, and so on. The
research proposes strategies of consumer education of low-carbon consumption in China context, which
can provide reference for the government to formulate policies for promoting effectively low-carbon
consumption, and also are benefit for enterprise low-carbon marketing.
Keywords: Low-carbon consumption, Consumer education, Low-carbon consumption attitude, Lowcarbon communication
1 Introduction
Low-carbon economy is an economic sustainable development model of low power consumption, low
pollution, low emissions and high-performance, which contains two aspects of low-carbon production
and low-carbon consumption. The government work report in 2010 pointed out that we should try our
best to build the industrial system and consumption patterns with the characteristics of low carbon
emissions. It is clear that realizing low-carbon consumption is an important aspect of the development of
low-carbon economy. With the China social-economic development, some problems such as
environment pollution, resource waste and others are so serious that they will restrict rapid and healthy
development of economy. Therefore, vigorously promoting low-carbon economy is an inevitable choice
for future development in China. The low-carbon consumption involves three levels: consumption
choices, the consumption process, and guiding consumers to change consumption concept [1], which deal
with the relationship between consumption and natural environment through the consumer education.
Consumer education of low-carbon consumption can guide the public to enhance the awareness of
low-carbon consumption and change the traditional habits of high-carbon consumption consciously.
This study focuses on analyzing the issues of consumers’ low-carbon consumption awareness and
behavior using consumer survey data, and proposes corresponding consumer education strategies in
Chinese context in order to speed up the realization from “carbonization” economy to “carbon and
water” economy, and achieve the social sustainable development.
2 Literature Review
2.1 The low-carbon consumption
Since the UK Energy White Paper proposed "low-carbon economy" for the first time in 2003 [2], many
scholars made various researches about low-carbon industrial development, low-carbon economy,
low-carbon consumption patterns [3]-[5], and so on. The low-carbon consumption is proposed by
following low-carbon economy and usually lies in the field of personal consumption. Liu Min (2010)
pointed out that the low-carbon consumption is a kind of economical consumption pattern which people
purchase and use products or services according to low-carbon standard in order to minimize energy
consumption, to reduce pollution, and to reduce waste in the field of everyday consumption [6]. Owing to
individual consumption behavior including the purchase, use and disposal, this study references the
viewpoints of Wang Jianming and He Aizhong (2011), namely, low-carbon consumption refers to such
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kind of consumer behavior pattern that consumers practice consciously of low energy consumption, low
pollution and low emissions in the daily consumption process [7]. The daily consumption of consumers
has significant impact on carbon emissions, furthermore, there is large population in China, and the
average carbon dioxide emissions of each family is 2.7 tons /person, household energy carbon emissions
account for 21% of the total emissions [7]. Therefore, it is urgent for consumers to implement low-carbon
consumer education in China context.
2.2 Consumer education
The formal study of consumer education began in the 1960s. The widespread view at present of
consumer education is a social activity which teaches consumer consumption knowledge and skills,
cultivate scientific consumption awareness, and improve consumer quality in a purposeful, planned,
organized way [9]. The literatures at home and abroad remind that the content of consumer education
include awareness of consumer rights, consumer attitudes, consumer knowledge, consumer skills and so
on [5]-[9], and its main bodies are families, enterprises, government and educational institutions, and the
families and schools are the most common places to conduct consumer education, and government joint
enterprises, mass media and consumer association push consumer education onto a new level [9].
2.3 Consumer education of low-carbon consumption
Although there is still a lack of specialized research on low-carbon consumer education in current
literatures, some scholars make it as future research direction, and others propose the content of
consumer education of low-carbon consumption or the main bodies of its implementation. Yao
Hai-qiong and Cao (2010) pointed out that the most important issues we faced are the lifestyles and
consumption behavior of extremely resource-waste, and human beings need to realize low-carbon
consumption and production for climate change and the security of energy supply. They emphasize
consumers education of sustainable consumption should be an important direction of future research [8].
Wang Jian-ming and He Aizhong (2011) put forward that it is necessary for the Chinese consumers to
attach importance to family and school education of low-carbon consumption [7]. However, how about
consumer attitude and behavior of low-carbon consumption and the situation of low-carbon consumer
education in China? How to carry out low-carbon consumer education? These questions are needed to
make further exploration, and they are also the issues of this study will focus on.
3 Current Situation of Consumers’ Low-Carbon Consumption
The study adopts the method of questionnaire to analyze low-carbon consumption attitudes and
consumption behavior, and questionnaire designing is from literature and expert interview.
3.1 Questionnaire design and sending
The research on low-carbon consumption psychology and behavior has begun to be attached importance
in recent years, but no consensus has been achieved on the low-carbon consumption behavior
measurement indexes. Wang jianming and He Aizhong (2011) provided that the reasons of low-carbon
consumption include consumer awareness of environmental issues, individual responsibility, low-carbon
consumption knowledge, consumption habits, the social atmosphere, low-carbon communication and
other factors [7]. Some scholars suggested low-carbon consumption behavior is closely related with
environmental protection behavior and green consumer behavior, which influenced by consumer
cognitive, behavior intentions and marketing factors [9]. Bohlen pointed out that three variables, namely,
general knowledge of environmental problems, specific knowledge, environment attitude, have
significant correlation between environmental behavior (including purchase behavior, recycling
[10]
behavior) . On the basis of literatures above, we propose the situation of low-carbon consumption
based on consumer perspective is mainly affected by the consumer attitudes of low-carbon consumption,
consumption concept and low-carbon communication condition of the government or enterprises or
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other social main bodies. Consumer attitude consists of cognitive component, affective component and
behavior intentions in consumer behavior researches, so current situation of consumers’ low-carbon
consumption can be analyzed from cognitive component, affective component and behavior intentions
of low-carbon consumption, consumption concept and low-carbon communication condition. In order to
analyze the specific items of these three aspects, this study organized a group interview, invites 15
graduate students in a university to form two groups, and each interviewee was asked to list the content
of the three aspects of low-carbon consumption behavior. We collated contents of the interview, and
retain the indexes which majority of interviewees agreed on. Then, we also invite 4 marketing teachers
to classify and name these indexes, forming the relevant factors affecting low-carbon consumption
behavior. As a result, the scale is composed of 20 items (shown in table 1). We sent 206 questionnaires
to the 4 city residents of Anhui and Jiangsu, and recycle effective 179 questionnaires, including 94
female and 85 male consumers.
Low-carbon
consumption
behavior
Low-carbon
consumption
attitude
Table 1 Primary factors of low-carbon consumption behavior involved
Factors
Concrete Items
Cognition
factor
Affection
factor
Behavior
intention
Low-carbon
consumption
concept
Low-carbon
communication
Low-carbon
consumption
concept
Low-carbon
communication
Understanding of low-carbon; importance of low-carbon consumption
implemented by personal and family; personal responsibility of protecting
environment; low carbon product knowledge; knowledge of other
low-carbon consumption
The preference for low-carbon product; preference for low- carbon
consumption way; low- carbon consumption has more advantages than the
traditional consumption
Whether you are willing to buy low-carbon products; willing to take the
low-carbon consumption behavior; willing to recommend low-carbon
products to others; willing to introduce low-carbon consumption way to
others
Whether can save energy and reduce emission in household consumption;
whether form habits of low-carbon consumption; whether are used to buy
low- carbon products
Whether receive amount of low-carbon consumption information; there are
multiple media to communicate low-carbon consumption; the local
government or community organize low-carbon consumption propaganda;
whether receive relevant information from enterprises or other
organizations; whether receive the low carbon public service ads
3.2 Data analysis
The research adopted SPSS13.0 to test means and standard deviation of every item. The results are
shown in table 2. All items were measured by Likert seven-point where higher scores indicated better
performance. If means of an item is less than 4 score, it generally reflects the item has not good
performance.
Item
low-carbon
consumption
cognition
1
2
3
Table 2 Data analysis on indexes of low-carbon consumption
Mean
Std.
Item
Deviation
3.427
1.023
behavior
11
intention
5.106
1.029
12
4.782
1.103
low-carbon
13
189
Mean
4.093
4.217
3.765
Std.
Deviation
1.137
1.328
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affection
factors
behavior
intention
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
3.872
3.964
3.985
4.018
4.032
3.895
4.893
0.975
1.127
1.128
1.051
1.420
1.216
1.377
consumption
concept
low-carbon
communication
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
3.562
3.221
3.589
3.375
3.722
3.323
4.726
0.963
0.925
1.085
1.024
1.245
0.965
0.953
The results from the statistical analysis show that there are 8 items more than 4 score with total 7 score,
mainly focusing on behavior intention of low-carbon consumption, preference for low-carbon
consumption way, importance of low-carbon consumption implemented by personal and family, and
personal responsibility of protecting environment, etc., while the other 12 items are given less than 4
score. The statistical results reflect that there still exist some problems in consumer attitudes, consumer
behavior, as well as low-carbon communication, they are as follows:
First, consumers have a weak awareness of low-carbon consumption. The survey result shows that three
items of the concept of low-carbon consumption are respectively less than 4 score, that is, the energy
saving and emission reducing in household consumption, the formation of low-carbon consumption
habits, being used to buy low- carbon products. These illustrate consumers’ weak awareness of
low-carbon consumption and the dominant position of traditional consumer awareness and consumer
attitudes. However, consumers’ weak awareness of low-carbon consumption hinders the development of
low-carbon consumption.
Second, consumers lack a deep understanding of low-carbon and low-carbon consumption. The survey
result shows that though majority of residents are familiar with the word “low-carbon”, they do not
really understand what low-carbon really means, the average score is 3.427. In addition, the
understanding of respondents’ understanding of low-carbon products and knowledge of other lowcarbon consumption are less than 4 score. These will influence the buying decisions of low-carbon
products and the behavior of low-carbon consumption.
Third, consumers’ preference for low-carbon products needs to be nurtured. The survey result shows that
consumers’ preference for low-carbon products has an average score of 3.985, which may be related to
the incomplete types and small number of low-carbon products in our market and strong alternative
between similar products. Besides, it is also related to the lack of understanding of perceived value and
cost-effective of low-carbon products. It is necessary for enterprises to communicate low-carbon
products to consumers.
Fourth, the communication efforts and effects of low-carbon consumption need to be improved. The
survey result of four items about low-carbon communication shows that the effects are not ideal for the
mean score are all less than 4 score. Though there is some publicity on green consumption and
low-carbon consumption, the publicity is not enough, nor satisfactory. Publicity simply stays in the
slogan stage. So, enterprises and institutions, the public and all levels of government as main bodies
should play better role in communicating low-carbon consumption.
4 The Selection of Consumer Education Path of Low-Carbon Consumption
4.1 Cultivating consumers’ the concept of low-carbon consumption
In order to establish low-carbon consumption concept, the first thing is to strengthen consumers’ moral
education and social responsibility. Through moral education, it can help consumers enhance the
consumption concept of advocating thriftily, combating waste, conserving resources and protecting the
environment, so as to make the public conscientiously fulfill their obligations of low-carbon
consumption. In addition, in order to establish the concept of low-carbon consumption, we need to
abandon the poor high-carbon consumption habits by policy or measures guiding. For example, on
December 31st 2007, the general office of the state council issued “the notice to limit the production,
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sales and using plastic shopping bags” which clearly stipulates that plastic shopping bags can only be
used if paid in all retail firms from June 1st 2008. Its purpose is to guide the public to curb white
pollution and to protect the ecological environment. Measures of restrictions and incentives make it
possible for consumers to develop an awareness of life saving, low-carbon and environmental friendly
in their everyday life.
4.2 Strengthening the popularity of residents’ knowledge on low-carbon consumption
In order to help consumers deeply understand the meanings of low-carbon consumption, the government
should launch massive activities over the country among the residents to popularize the connotation,
scope and significance of low-carbon consumption. In order to popularizing the knowledge on lowcarbon consumption, it needs consumers make sure that there is a close relationship between low-carbon
consumption and the daily lives of residents, involving individual consumers’ basic necessities. In
addition, enterprise should provide consumers with purchase and use knowledge on low-carbon
products to improve their ability to identify low-carbon products and develop preference for low-carbon
products. Only by providing consumers with comprehensive low-carbon consumption knowledge and
effective product information, can consumers enhance their awareness of low-carbon consumption and
improve the consumption ability of low-carbon products.
4.3 Playing the role of carbon education of Government
Government should take low-carbon education to enable consumers to promote low-carbon
consumption awareness and knowledge of low-carbon consumption so as to achieve low-carbon
consumption. On one hand, it should establish and improve the school consumer education system, put
low-carbon consumption education into the national education system, fully make use of the interaction
between teachers and students. On the other hand, Government can organize authoritative low-carbon
organizations to train and educate consumers, promote low-carbon consumption concept and knowledge.
Besides, the government should publish policies and regulations to encourage citizen and social
organizations to implement low-carbon consumption, such as the encouragement and guidance of
buying energy-saving products, restrictions on the use of non-renewable energy products, the use of
price progressive system in water, electricity and other energy products to strengthen the guide function
of price regulation; Last but not least, it should encourage the use of recycled products at the policy
level to reduce the use of disposable daily necessities.
4.4 Promoting the development and communication of enterprises’low-carbon products
As the main production part, enterprises should follow the trend of low-carbon consumption and provide
more low-carbon products in order to enrich the choices for consumers. Enterprises should assure the
process of production in the low level of carbon through reforming low-carbon production technology or
updating production equipment and so on. Enterprises should also reduce the production costs and
reduce prices of low-carbon products. Product prices must be in the affordable range of consumers in
order to transfer their value to meet the needs of consumers successfully. Government may adopt
consumption subsidy system for low-carbon products timely to narrow the price gap between the lowcarbon products and general ones. At the same time, government may increase incentives for low-carbon
enterprises and support the development of related industries, so that enterprises can produce more
affordable low-carbon products for consumers.
4.5 Enhancing the communication efforts and effects of low-carbon
The cultivation of consumers’ low-carbon consumption concept and habits can’t go without the
sustained and effective low-carbon communication. On one hand, as for the communication main parts,
the government, enterprises and other public should make proper communication objectives and
strategies. For example, as for consumers’ fuzzy on the concept of low-carbon, it is necessary for the
government to determine the popularity of low-carbon knowledge; If consumers lack the understanding
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of low-carbon goods, enterprises should introduce the customer value of low-carbon products by means
of advertising or sales promotion activities to develop customers’ preferences for low-carbon supplies.
On the other hand, the main body should select effective media and communication pattern according to
target market characteristics to improve the effective of communication. There are some differences in
the main way between consumers of different genders, ages to obtain information. For young people,
they often have access to information through network, classroom, friends, classmates, colleagues, etc, it
is possible for young people to select network, newspapers, television as the main media, complemented
by interpersonal communication pattern to strengthen low-carbon communication and education. While
for older people, the use of networks and other emerging media may be less, so it may be wiser to
choose traditional means of communication to strengthen low-carbon communication and education.
5 Conclusion
In recent years, along with appearing some problems such as the global climate warming, serious
environmental pollution and waste of resources, low-carbon consumption has received special attention.
The study analyzes the problems of consumers’ low-carbon consumption and countermeasures of
consumer education. Literature analysis reveals that low-carbon consumption based consumer
perspective is mainly affected by the consumers’ low-carbon consumption attitude, consumption
concept, and low-carbon communication. On this basis, the research designs consumer questionnaire
and surveys consumer, makes certain actual situation of low-carbon consumption, and finds some
problems in current low-carbon consumption attitudes, behavior, and low-carbon communication, and
proposes corresponding strategies of consumer education of low-carbon consumption. This study can
provide reference for the government to formulate policies for promoting effectively low-carbon
consumption, and also are benefit for enterprise low-carbon marketing. However, the research do not
analyze consumer's demographic feature, consumers with different educational background or social
class may have different low-carbon consumption behavior, and future research can be carried out at
different types of consumers in order to better serve the low-carbon consumption education.
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